In a series of events, the news of which was greeted with joy by progressive people around the world, Saudi Arabia, and its blood-soaked despot Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), received a serious beating at the hands of Yemeni resistance (the so-called ‘Houthi rebels’) in September, making this a month to remember.
In a series of tumultuous events, Yemen’s indomitable resistance fighters walked right up to the cannon’s mouth and came off with all honours. Having first landed heavy blows on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry by destroying 50 percent of its production capacity in drone strikes, they followed up by announcing the successful prosecution of an earlier blistering attack in the border area near Najran, where theyhad taken thousands of Saudi soldiers prisoner, destroyed millions of dollars’ worth of military equipment, and seized even more.
These tremendous victories for the Yemeni people have been condemned by imperialism and widely seen as another blow landed by Iran and her allies on US imperialism and its stooges in the middle east.
Since 2015, with the support of the US and Britain, Saudi Arabia and a handful of pathetic regional stooges have been engaged in an orgy of destruction against the Yemeni people, wiping out schools, hospitals, factories and bridges, and taking a dreadful toll in human lives, whether through bombing, starvation, or the spread of cholera initiated by the destruction of water purification plants – all in a desperate effort to intervene in Yemen’s internal affairs and reinstate a discredited regime that had fallen from power at the hands of the Yemeni people.
In committing these crimes against humanity, Saudi Arabia and her allies have received the full support of Britain and the US, both on the propaganda front and directly in the supply of fighter jets and bombs, logistical support and training. (Tempering Yemen’s resistance, cpgb-ml, 28 March 2019)
British imperialism makes big
The British state, a foremost exponent in the art of hypocrisy, has been paying out millions in ‘aid’ to the war-ravaged country whilst transacting billions of pounds’ worth of arms sales with the Saudi-led coalition responsible for Yemen’s devastation.
“Britain has earned eight times more from arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other members of the coalition fighting in Yemen than it has spent on aid to help civilians caught up in the conflict,” states a recently-published report by Oxfam.
The authors, well-meaning charitable types, consider this state of affairs to be “completely incoherent”. But is that so? Clearly not. In fact, it makes very good business sense, and has been a nice little earner for those whose stock-in-trade is human misery.
According to the report, whilst Britain has given £770m in food, medicines and other assistance to civilians in Yemen over the past half-decade, making the country the sixth largest recipient of British aid, it has made £6.2bn of arms sales to members of the coalition fighting there, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Under pressure from campaigners, the court of appeal in June ruled that arms sales to Saudi Arabia – which account for the vast majority of the total – were unlawful. The judgment also accused ministers of ignoring the question of whether airstrikes that killed civilians in Yemen broke international law.
Liam Fox, then international trade secretary, responded cynically by saying he was suspending new arms sales to Saudi Arabia, whilst in reality his department continued to approve further deals. (Money from arms sales dwarfs aid for Yemen by Emma Graham-Harrison, The Guardian, 7 September 2019)
By the end of September, the international trade secretary Liz Truss admitted that Britain had breached the court order for a third time.
Ms Truss told the Commons that officials had “discovered” a further violation, 10 days after she was forced to write to the court of appeal admitting that two previous export licences had been unlawfully granted.
According to the Guardian: “Officials from the Ministry of Defence recommended the latest unlawful licence be approved on 16 July, a month after the court of appeal ruling. It was signed off by Department of International Trade (DIT) on 13 August.”
Apparently, Truss offered ‘an unreserved apology’ for the breach … before putting the blame on a “lack of communication” between government departments.
As Keith Vaz, a Labour backbencher, put it: “The apology is welcome but the narrative is shameful … Last week a bomb fell on a mosque and on a family eating their dinner. What do they put on the death certificates? Is it death by administrative error?” (Truss admits UK broke ban on Saudi arms sales three times by Dan Sabbagh, The Guardian, 26 September 2019)
On 14 September, international media reported that Saudi Arabia was forced to shut down half its oil production after a series of drone strikes hit the world’s largest oil processing facility.
“First word of the assault came in online videos of giant fires at the Abqaiq facility, some 330km (205 miles) northeast of the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Machine-gun fire could be heard in several clips alongside the day’s first muslim call to prayers, suggesting security forces tried to bring down the drones just before dawn.
“In daylight, Saudi state television aired a segment with its local correspondent near a police checkpoint, a thick plume of smoke visible behind him …
“In a short address aired by the Houthis’ Almasirah satellite news channel, military spokesman Yahia Sarie said the rebels launched 10 drones in their coordinated attack after receiving ‘intelligence’ support from those inside the kingdom. He warned that attacks by the rebels would only get worse if the war continues.
“‘The only option for the Saudi government is to stop attacking us,’ Sarie said.” (Yemen’s Houthi rebels launch drones on two big Saudi oil sites, CNBC, 14 September 2019)
The closure was reported to have impacted daily crude production of almost 5.7m barrels – about 5 percent of the world’s daily oil production, according to processor Saudi Aramco. In August, Saudi Arabia produced 9.85m barrels per day in total, according to the latest figures from the US Energy Information Administration.
Saudi energy minister Abdulaziz bin Salman said the attacks had also led to a halt in gas production that reduced the supply of ethane and natural gas liquids by 50 percent.
“The attack on Saudi oil fields was an act of legitimate defence by the Houthis,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman said, adding that his country supports the Houthi forces through “spiritual and political” means. (Attack on Saudi oil fields ‘legitimate defence’ by Houthis, Iran says by Sanya Burgess, Sky news, 30 September 2019)
Soon after the Houthis announced their spectacular feat, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appeared on US news show 60 Minutes to assert that Iran must be behind the attack.
Asked what Iran’s aim would have been in attacking Saudi’s oil fields, the Prince said: “I believe it’s stupidity, there is no strategic goal. Only a fool would strike five percent of global supplies.”
In a barely disguised appeal for further support from his imperialist masters, he said that failure to take “strong and firm action” would embolden Iran and lead to war, which he said would ruin the global economy.
“Oil supplies will be disrupted and oil prices will jump to unimaginably high numbers that we haven’t seen in our lifetimes.” (Sky news, ibid)
The offer of peace
In the days after the victorious attack by the Houthi rebel movement, Houthi spokesman Mahdi al-Mashat said his organisation would stop aiming missiles and drones at Saudi Arabia, adding that the movement expected the kingdom to reciprocate by stopping all attacks against Yemen and warning that a continuation of the war could lead to “dangerous developments”.
“We declare ceasing to target the Saudi Arabian territory with military drones, ballistic missiles and all other forms of weapons, and we wait for a reciprocal move from them,” Mr al-Mashat said on Almasirah TV.
“We reserve the right to respond if they fail to reciprocate positively to this initiative,” he said, adding that the continuation of the Yemen war “will not benefit any side”. (Yemen’s Houthis say will stop all attacks on Saudi Arabia, Al Jazeera, 20 September 2019)
Boris Johnson drags Britain closer to war
Falling into line with US policy, and relying upon no evidence whatsoever, Prime Minister Boris Johnson blamed Iran for the Yemeni attacks on Saudi oil facilities, just ahead of a meeting with the Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani.
Mr Johnson said there was a “very high degree of probability” that Iran was behind the drone and missile attacks.
The prime minister refused to rule out military intervention and said sanctions were a possibility.
But the Iranian foreign ministry’s Abbas Mousavi said they amounted to “fruitless efforts against the Islamic Republic of Iran”, and attacked the British government for “selling lethal weapons to Saudi Arabia”.
A Whitehall source said the Houthi rebels’ claim of responsibility was “implausible”, insisting that the “scale, sophistication and range” of the attack was “beyond their capabilities” – a position that can only be attributed to either bluster or wilful delusion on the part of British imperialism. (Johnson blames Iran for Saudi Arabia oil attacks, BBC News, 23 September 2019)
Yemen’s next devastating blow
A fitting response to the British, as well as to the continuing attacks of the Saudis, emerged over the weekend of 27-29 September.
Houthi rebels announced that they had earlier killed 500 Saudi soldiers and taken a further 2,000 hostage in a major assault near the Saudi Arabian border.
Resistance spokesman Yahya Saree said Yemeni forces had liberated 350 square km of territory in offensives near the town of Najran. (Houthi rebels claim to capture thousands of Saudi troops in major border offensive by Vincent Wood, Independent, 30 September 2019)
According to the Financial Times: “Yemen’s Houthi rebels claim to have launched a big offensive against Saudi-backed Yemeni forces and captured ‘thousands’ of prisoners.
“The Houthis broadcast footage of the attack on Sunday, describing it as the rebels’ largest military operation since Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015.
“The videos purported to show seized vehicles bearing Saudi military insignia, as well as interviews with two soldiers who identified themselves as Saudis to their captors. Most of those shown in the footage appeared to be Yemeni but it was not clear when the alleged attack took place.
“Saudi Arabia backs forces loyal to the exiled Yemeni government, which has been battling the rebels in a more than four-year civil war. While leading the coalition’s air strikes, Riyadh has deployed relatively limited numbers of ground troops in Yemen, concentrating most of its land forces along its southern border.
“The Houthis said the offensive took place near Saudi Arabia’s southern region of Najran, which borders Yemen.
“‘Only 72 hours after the start of the operation, our forces enforced a full siege on the enemy,’ Brigadier Yahya Saree, the Houthi military spokesman, told reporters on Saturday.
“Houthi-run Almasirah television quoted the spokesman as saying the movement had captured ‘thousands’ of enemy troops, including Saudi officers and soldiers.” (Houthis claim capture of thousands in Yemeni offensive by Simeon Kerr, 29 September 2019)
An article in the Jerusalem Post expressed the panic and shock of imperialism’s loyal servant in the middle east upon hearing of the Yemeni people’s startling victory:
“Videos published by pro-Houthi and pro-Iranian media appear to show hundreds of Saudi-backed fighters routed by the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
“This comes after a day in which rumours swirled that the Houthis had destroyed three brigades and captured thousands of troops, and two weeks after the drone and cruise missile attack on oil processing facilities at Abqaiq. The US has blamed Iran for that Abqaiq attack and it now appears Yemen’s real message is that Yemen will become Riyadh’s Vietnam …
“It looked like a scene from Afghanistan’s Panjshir valley where Soviet tanks were destroyed during the Afghan war. But it might as well be the Tet offensive in 1968 the way the Houthis and their allies are using it as bragging rights over their apparent defeat of what should be modern Saudi-equipped army fighting poor rebels … Looking more like the French at Dien Bien Phu surrendering to the Vietnamese, than a modern war.
“The idea is to humiliate. Video shows anti-tank guided missiles being used against Oshkosh armoured vehicles. People that follow open source videos are feasting on the details now, noting that the vehicles constitute US and Canadian-made vehicles among others …
“There is no reason the Houthis should have been able to accomplish this, but there was no reason the Vietminh should have outdone the French inn 1954. But they did.” (Iran’s goal: Turn Yemen into Saudi’s Vietnam by Seth J Frantzman, 2 October 2019)
Of course, the oppressed people of the world and communists know very well that there was every reason to be confident in the Vietnamese overcoming the French in 1954, as indeed there is every reason to believe that we shall live to see the Yemeni people overcome the Saudis. Perhaps sooner than we think, the world will also be celebrating the collapse of the Saudi dictatorship.
The struggle against imperialism is a struggle that will end, sooner or later, in the complete victory of the people.
As Ho Chi Minh himself explained: “We would rather sacrifice everything than lose our country. We are determined not to be enslaved …
“Those who have rifles will use their rifles; those who have swords will use their swords; those who have no swords will use spades, shoes and sticks. Everyone must endeavour to oppose the colonialists and save the country …
“Whatever hardships we may have to endure in the war of resistance, with our determination to face all sacrifices, victory will surely be ours!”